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Friday, 30 December 2011

Bertie Stewart and Nessie Wilson

This post concerns information gleaned from a conversation with my father, Paul Cuthbert Stewart, about his parents and, as such, is more family gossip than research.  I'll add in further info as I find it....

My father's parents were Cuthbert Stewart, always known as Bertie, and Agnes Keating Wilson, always known as Nessie.

Cuthbert Stewart was born  born on 1st June 1909 to the bookkeeper Robert Stewart and his wife, Rebecca Cuthbert, of 10 Edenvale Road.

Nessie was born 23rd November 1905 in Belfast to the grocer, Edward Leviolett Wilson and Agnes Jane Anderson.

Bertie Stewart
The Wilson Family 1924.  Left to right: Doreen, Vera, Ernest,  Edward Leviolett Wilson,  Edward, Edna, Agnes Jane Anderson, Ronald, Nessie and Kay.  The photo was kindly sent to me by Edward's son, Stuart Wilson.

Nessie and Paul

Bertie was a member of the St.Patrick’s Cathedral choir and was therefore educated free of charge at St.Patrick’s Cathedral Grammar School which was adjacent to St.Patrick’s.
His first job on leaving school was with the North British and Mercantile Insurance Company which later merged with the Hibernian Insurance Company.
He later joined the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, rising through the company to become the manager of the Belfast branch where he met his wife, Nessie.  They married there in 1934.
Nessie had always wanted to live in the country so they took a house on the Ards Peninsula - Rose Cottage in Killyvolgan.  Our father, Paul, was born on 18th June 1935 in Nurse Smith’s Nursing Home on My Lady’s Road close to her parents’ home on the Ravenhill Road.  His younger brother, Anthony, was born 19th March 1937 at his grandparents’ house, 316 Ravenhill Road.

When war broke out in 1939, Goodyear gave Bertie the choice of either returning to Dublin or joining up and remaining on full pay, so he chose the latter, and joined the RAF ground staff, rising to the rank of flight lieutenant.  (Later in Galway, Bertie was friends with a German man named Helmut who had been a member of the Luftwaffe during the war;  they used to joke that if they’d met in the air over Britain, they would have landed in a field and gone off for a drink together. Bertie had, presumably, neglected to mention that he had been ground staff....)
He was posted to a variety of places - my father recalls living at 9 Greenmore Gardens in Aberdeen and also Heston, Middlesex, where Nessie and the two boys lived with Nessie’s sister, Doreen and her husband Bob.  It was here that Bertie ‘borrowed’ an army jeep to return home for the day on leave;  sadly, the same night, a VI doodlebug landed directly across the street from them, hitting a tree and causing terrible damage to all the houses on the road.  Anthony, who was in the kitchen at the time, was hit on the head by a falling shelf while all the slates from the house landed on the army jeep parked in the driveway. Apparently Bertie rushed from the damaged house to check first on the ‘borrowed’ jeep, which he knew would have to returned in perfect order, before running back into the house to check on all the family.

Bertie and a colleague
Following this bombing, Nessie and the boys returned to Belfast to live with her parents on the Ravenhill Road;  during the Belfast Blitz, however, the family’s grocery shop on the Albertbridge Road was destroyed by another German bomb, prompting Edward Leviolett Wilson’s retirement.

Paul and Anthony with their grandparents in Belfast; Bertie and Nessie are flanked by  Nessie's sisters,  Kay to her left, and Edna next to Bertie.

At the end of the war, Bertie and Nessie moved south to Dublin, (Goodyear transferred Bertie there in 1946) where the terrible shortage of housing led to them renting a small house named Woodview, in Blanchardstown.  Their landlady was Mrs.Bradshaw of Bonnybrook who became Nessie’s best friend - despite their closeness (they met for a chat every day) they would always refer to each other as ‘Mrs. Stewart’ and ‘Mrs.Bradshaw’.  Another of their close friends was a Mrs.Commiskey who was the wife of the headmaster at Morgan’s School where Paul and Anthony would be educated. One of the teachers there, a Mr.McCormick would later help Anthony and Paul cycle home with one of the school’s old goal posts which Nessie wanted to use as a pole to hang a washing line from, there being a serious shortage of building materials after the war. Anthony couldn’t resist weaving backwards and forwards across the road, causing the schoolmaster up ahead to go flying off his bike into the ditch; the boys loved that.

My Dad at Woodview, Blanchardstown 
On June 13th 1957, the Irish Times published a piece about the new Dublin premises of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company which were opened on the previous day at Hanover Street East by Count Cyril McCormack, who had recently been elected president of the Society of Irish Motor Traders.  Mr. Cuthbert Stewart, Irish divisional manager, told reporters that the new building would mean quicker and more satisfactory supply of the firm's goods.  Bertie's sister, Vera, who had married the Irish tenor, Robert Irwin, was a good friend of Cyril McCormack's father, Count John McCormack, and I wonder did Bertie invite Cyril to the opening of the new premises?  Vera and Robert Irwin lived close to the McCormacks in Knightsbridge, London, in the 1940s - Vera and Robert once received an impromptu invitation to dinner at the McCormacks', so Vera, who was busy getting their own dinner ready, dropped everything and rushed round immediately to the Count's apartment, only to discover that the only thing on the menu that night was champagne.

In 1958, Nessie’s best friend, Mrs.Bradshaw moved to Cornelscourt, south Dublin, so the Stewarts followed.  The Bradshaws bought Cornelscourt House and rented a house along the same road to the Stewarts.  They called their new home ‘Croom’ after Nessie’s parents’ home ‘Knockcroom’ on the Ravenhill Road in Belfast.  (My parents would later rent the same house until they bought one of their own in Deansgrange.)
Nessie and Bertie’s younger son, Anthony, stayed in Blanchardstown with his young wife, Vera Walters, and moved into the old family home, Woodview.

We have an old newspaper cutting about Bertie’s time with Goodyear:   ‘Received Long-Service Award - Mr.C. (Bertie) Stewart, divisional manager of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company’s Irish sales division, had completed 30 year’s service with the company. He received the long-service award from the firm’s managing director Mr. M.S.Meyer, at the headquarters in Wolverhampton.  A native of Dublin, Mr.Stewart joined Goodyear in the service department and worked in Glasgow until June 1931, when he was transferred to Belfast as office manager. He moved to Dublin in 1935 as an adjuster, and in October 1937, he joined the company’s sales organisation in London. He was promoted to his present position in June 1957.’

Bertie was always involved one way or another with cars - he loved rallying, taking part in the Circuit Ireland Car Rally many times. This love of cars was shared by both of his sons.

In 1960, Bertie and Nessie bought themselves an old cottage by the sea - Garryowen Cottage - in Moyard, Connemara, which had been owned by an elderly couple, Colonel Sandford and his wife, who had retired there from India along with copious stuffed animal heads which they hung on the walls. All I really know about the Sandfords was that the wife had elephantiasis.

Nessie died of aural encephalitis on 26th March 1965 in St. Laurence's Hospital, having been ill for several months. She was a kind woman who was incredibly close to her sisters, Doreen, Kay and Edna.
Her unexpected death was a terrible shock to her family.

Irish Times:  'Stewart - March 26 1965, at St. Laurence's Hospital, Agnes (Nessie) Keating, beloved wife of Cuthbert, and devoted mother of Paul and Anthony, Foxrock, Dublin. Funeral on Monday next, after 10 o'clock service in Kill-o'-the-Grange Parish Church, to Dean's Grange Cemetery. House private.'

Bertie, who was by then the divisional manager of Goodyear in Dublin, was moved to England by the company following his wife’s death in 1965;  he once again moved in with his sister-in-law, Doreen and her husband Bob, in Weybridge.  Bertie, however, missed the fun of Dublin pub life, and moved back home to Dublin a year later.
He at first divided his time between the house in Cornelscourt, and the cottage in Galway, but eventually retired west to Connemara where he would spent the rest of his life.  He would spend the winters with us in Deansgrange, or with his sister, Vera Irwin, in Winnipeg.
Bertie died in Clifden Hospital, Co.Galway, on 30th March 1977, having already spent some time in Merlin Hospital, Galway City, and Baggot St.Hospital in Dublin.

Bertie and Nessie in Sweeney's,  Claddaduff, Galway, with Paul and Nessie's brother, Ernest Wilson

Bertie with my late brother, Raymond Stewart, in the garden of the cottage in Moyard, circa  1964

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